by Brian Williams
Here Brian Williams explains precisely how to advertise effectively, including
* the single most important thing to understand,
* why you must understand the benefits your customers seek,
* the most important element in your advertising,
* appealing to the reader’s self interest,
* hints for body copy,
* emphasizing risk reversal,
* closing the sale,
* effective testing, and
* using keyed responses.
Here’s a topic that many business owners find confusing and frustrating. It’s something that can eat huge holes in your budget yet, if done correctly, can create huge profit windfalls and massive growth for your business.
I’m talking about advertising, the bane and boon of small business. How do you keep from throwing away your profits on ineffective ads? How do you target the right people with the right message in the right medium? How do you know if the ads you run are actually working? Excellent questions.
And now it’s time for some simple, profitable answers. My goal over the next few pages is to help you unlock the secrets of successful advertising and put them to work for your business. I’ll show you how to put together a winning ad one that produces an immediate, direct, measurable response from your target audience. No ad agency fees, no confusing hype. Just good old-fashioned salesmanship that gets results. Ready? Let’s talk advertising…
Profit from the Secrets Of Successful Advertising
What’s the secret to successful advertising? Is it about paying an ad agency lots of money for something clever and “creative?” Is it about cute, monosyllabic frogs obsessed with a particular brand of beer? Is it about sexy models and witty catch-phrases and fancy photography? No. No. And no. Advertising whether it’s in print, over the airwaves, or via computer is about presenting a special benefit-laden offer to your specific target prospects. It’s about making a successful sales pitch to the right people, and convincing them to make a purchase. That’s the whole concept of advertising in a nutshell. How do I know? Well, although 1 won’t profess to be the world’s foremost expert on advertising, I have spent the past 5 years studying the lessons of some of the best advertising minds ever.
By applying their concepts, I’ve enjoyed considerable success.
First thing, try to step into a customer’s shoes. When you are able to reach that level of understanding, you will be able to sell them what they want as often as they want it.
Sell Them the Benefits
The most important thing to understand about your customers or clients or patients is this: They aren’t interested in the specific features of your product or service. They don’t even necessarily want savings. And, as difficult as this may be to believe, they’re not really interested in helping you and your business!
All customers whether they realize and acknowledge it or not really want just one thing: benefits. They want the benefits that your products and services provide them to help their businesses or improve the quality of their lives. If the best feature of your business is fast, reliable service, the benefit to the customer may be more time to do the things they really enjoy.
If you’re selling the latest, state-of-the-art product on the market, why would your customer be interested? The benefit may be getting twice as much work done in half the time and making twice as much money. If your best selling point is the fact that you have the lowest-cost product, the benefit may be more money available to spend on other things that help improve a person’s quality of life a bigger house, a car, a vacation, etc.
In How to Write Advertising That Sells, Clyde Bedell lists some of the benefits that have been proven to have appeal: comfort, better complexion, savings, sexual attraction, pride of possession, time saved, improved personal earnings, better health, prestige, more pep and vitality, and enjoyment. Understand the benefits your customers seek and emphasize those benefits in your ads! Use Your USP In any discussion of benefits, the concept of developing and promoting a unique selling proposition (USP) should follow.
As you know, your USP is the indisputably unique advantage that distinguishes your business from other businesses. It’s really the essence of your business. It’s the benefit or advantageous end result that you provide that sets you and your business apart from every other competitor. Your USP should be as strong and as self-evident as the Federal Express USP: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
I will show you in my ebook “The Insider’s Secrets”, how to create and promote your unique selling proposition (USP).
Headlines: The Key to a Successful Ad
The headline is the most important element in your advertising. This is true not only for your print ads, but for any form of promotional communication you engage in the opening sentence or paragraph you use in any sales letter; the opening line of your radio or TV ads; the first words you or your sales people (including in-store clerks, order department staff, or telephone marketers) utter when they engage someone in a sales presentation or one-on-one discussion. The purpose of a headline is to grab your prospect’s attention. Your headline should zero in on precisely whom you want to reach your target market. It should tell the reader immediately and clearly the essence of what you’re trying to say in the rest of the ad.
In short, it should tell the right people precisely the benefit you’re offering them. When you decide upon your headline or its opening equivalent you have spent at least 80 cents out of your advertising dollar. How so? Studies have shown that 80% of your outcome is affected positively or negatively by how and what you communicate in the beginning of your advertisement. In short, your headline determines four-fifths of your success or failure.
Appeal to Self-Interest
Every headline or opening statement should appeal to the reader’s or listener’s self-interest. It should promise him or her a desirable, powerful, and appealing benefit. If possible, try to inject “news” or “educational” value into the headline also. The two most valuable words you can ever use in the headline are “free” and “new.”
You cannot always use “free,” but you can nearly always use “new” if you try hard enough. Other words that work wonders are: how to, now, announcing, introducing, it’s here, just arrived, an important announcement, improvement, amazing, sensation, remarkable, revolutionary, star-ding, miracle or miraculous, magic, offer, quick, easy, simple, powerful, wanted, challenge, advise to, the truth about, compare, bargain, hurry, and last chance.
Always incorporate your selling promise into your headline. And make that promise as specific and desirable and advantageous to the prospect as you possibly can. Good headlines explain how the reader, listener, viewer, or live sales prospect can save, gain, or accomplish something beneficial (or avoid something unpleasant, painful, costly, frustrating) through the use of your product or service. Always, always focus your headlines on the benefit or specific result your prospect will be receiving.
When crafting possible headlines for your advertisements, be sure to stop and think about the headlines that get your attention. Which headlines do you like or dislike? Chances are, your customers have the same likes and dislikes. When going through magazines and newspapers or direct mail, take a second to jot down the headlines and techniques that attract you. It’s not against the law to borrow some of those same elements and themes for your own headlines!
Follow These Body Copy Tips
Once you’ve enticed your prospect with the headline or opening statement, you need to lead them through the body copy the “meat” of your ad as succinctly and effortlessly as possible. Here are a few tips on copywriting and ad appearance that I’ve picked up over the years.
! Long copy is better than short copy. Although you’ve probably read or heard somewhere that you should keep your ads brief, I’ve had much better experience with long copy. Why? Because you don’t leave the reader with questions. You tell them the whole story. Your offer is convincing the first time. That said, let me caution you against simply rambling. Tell a complete story, but use concise words and short sentences. Use short paragraphs. Break up long, monotonous blocks of text with typographical bullets and subheads. Your ad should be thorough but also appealing to look at not a turn-off.
! Don’t use ALL CAPS. Copy that appears in all capital letters is very difficult to read. Even relatively short headlines can be compromised by setting them in all caps. It’s best to avoid the practice altogether.
! Use serif type for body copy. Serif typefaces are those that have litde tails on the tops and bottoms of each letter. (For example, the copy you’re reading right now is a serif typeface.) Studies have shown that body copy set in a serif typeface is easier to read and therefore more effective than copy set in sans serif typefaces (those without the little tails). Limit your use of sans serif type to headlines, subheads, or other display text.
! Emphasize important words. Readers tend to scan ads. Use underscore, bold, or italics to highlight the important points or benefits.
! Make it clear who and where you are. Make sure your business name, phone number, address, and Web site (if applicable) are clearly visible. Don’t make it hard for your prospects to find you!
! Tell the truth. In your advertising and in your business life in general it’s important to be absolutely truthful. Don’t try to bend or distort the facts just make the truth irresistible and fascinating.
Emphasize Risk Reversal
Chances are you already know about the importance of reversing the risk for your prospects and the profound impact it can have on your ability to attract customers and profits. It’s not only important that you adopt a risk-reversal approach, but also that you trumpet it in your ads as well.
When your customers and prospects look at your ad and consider your product or service, they inevitably think about the potential risks of doing business with you. Your challenge is not only to eliminate the slightest possible perception of risk in the minds of your prospects, but also to take that risk away from your customers and place it squarely on your shoulders. I strongly believe that every ad should provide some sort of risk reversal.
Keep in mind that your risk-reversal offer has to be more than simply slapping the word “Guaranteed” on your ad. It has to be compelling, strong, believable, and, above all, legitimate. Instead of saying “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” you might say what that really means: “No questions asked, 100% money-back, 90-day guarantee. If you can honestly say that our product didn’t meet your expectations, we’ll refund your money with no hassles.” The latter statement obviously carries more weight in your prospects’ minds.
Now Close the Sale
You can do everything I recommend in this article understand your customers, write headlines that pull, provide an appealing offer with benefits and a risk-free guarantee and it probably won’t matter if you fail to close the deal. Just as with a sales presentation, your ad must close the sale! Your ad should motivate the reader to take action immediately not tomorrow, not next week. Tell him or her exactly what to do: Order today… Pick up the phone and call for a free estimate… Send in this coupon… Come see us today… The essence of direct-response advertising is getting the reader of the ad to respond directly and immediately to your offer.
The response you attempt to get may be an immediate direct sale, or it may simply be getting readers to pre- qualify themselves with a response (either in person, by phone, or in written reply) so you can identify them. The latter is often called a “two-step” selling approach, whereby the ad is intended to generate leads you can convert into sales. You can often induce a response by offering a giveaway, a discount, a free estimate, a special report anything that might entice a reader to take immediate action.
Don’t Forget to Test!
As you develop advertisements for your business, you should be coming up with multiple headlines, multiple offers, even multiple calls to action or risk-reversal approaches. How do you know which one to use? You let your customers and prospects make the decision for you. You test your ad until you’ve got the right headline, the right offer, the right price, the right guarantee, the right call to action, and the right medium.
Testing can help you get maximum leverage from your ads and handsomely boost your profits. Here’s an example: One of my first clients, a silver and gold broker, ran a headline to announce a new and very appealing marketing breakthrough. Unfortunately, he never tested his headline (and, unluckily, the headline was boring).
When I entered the picture, I first came up with 10 different headlines to test. One of them outpulled his headline by more than 500%. Instead of spending $30,000 a month to produce $1 million in sales, that same $30,000 started producing $5 million in sales per month and more! The simple act of testing one headline against another made an annualized difference of $50 million in gross sales. Testing your ads can pay handsome rewards.
Use Keyed Response
So, how do you test? If you’re testing two different approaches, you must design your test to give you specific results keyed to each approach. You must know which ad each prospect is responding to. You can do this in different ways:
! Use a coupon a differently coded coupon for each version of your ad.
! Tell the prospects to specify a department number when they call or write (there doesn’t have to be an actual department).
! Ask the prospect to tell you he or she heard it on radio station WXYZ in order to qualify for a discount or special offer.
! Include a code on the mailing label returned with the order the code identifies the source of the label or the version of the ad you mailed.
! Use different telephone numbers for respondents each offer is accompanied by a similar but distinct phone number.
! Make different package tests and note which bonuses or prices people ask for.
! Have the caller ask for a specific person (the name can be fictitious). You must be able to attribute each response to one of the approaches you are testing. Then, when you have all the results tabulated by method “A” or method “B,” compare the two approaches and select the better one. Then test again, using your winner (the “control”) in competition with a new contestant. Always compare the new effort against your proven winner, and look to beat the current winner. Lastly, when you test your ads, remember to only test one variable at a time. This is the scientific principle of control. By isolating the variable, you can be sure of the source of different results. If you’re testing a guarantee, don’t change the headline. If you’re comparing one price against another, don’t change any other variable.
Set Your Own Standard
I hope the advertising ideas I’ve just shared with you have been helpful and inspiring. But I have tons of ideas in Insider Secrets. Your exciting opportunity is to apply these ideas to your own ads, refining them and making them so successful that they replace all others as the best. It’s up to you to set the advertising standard by which everyone else is measured. Open your mind to new possibilities for your advertisements even if they differ dramatically from the approach your competitors and others in your business use. In the end, you’ll enjoy breakthrough success and watch your business grow in ways you never imagined! I wish you much luck and advertising success.